A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Cigarette tax now up to $1.10 a pack; health advocates say it’s a great time to quit smoking

Kentucky’s cigarette tax just went up 83 percent, from 60 cents per pack to $1.10 a pack. Anti-smoking and health advocates hope the 50-cent increase will prompt smokers to kick the habit.

The increase was effective July 1.

“Many more people are former smokers than current smokers today, which proves that quitting, though hard, can be done,” Ben Chandler, chair of the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, said in a news release.

The coalition of 160 organizations and advocates had lobbied hard against the tobacco industry to get the tax raised by $1 a pack, arguing that anything less would have no real health impact on the state because the tobacco industry could afford to offset the lesser increases with coupons and discounts.

Kentucky adults have the second highest rate of smoking in the nation, 24.5 percent, and the state leads the nation in many of the diseases, including many cancers, caused from it.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly seven in 10 adult smokers want to quit, and a similar percentage have tried to in the past year. And for those who are successful, the positive health effects are both immediate and long-term.

Research shows that within 20 minutes of quitting, a person’s blood pressure and pulse drops and within just 24 hours, the chance of having a heart attack decreases and within one year, the chance of having a heart attack falls to half that of smokers, according to the coalition news release. Quitting also reduces the smoker’s risk of lung and other types of cancers, as well as lung disease and stroke.

Chandler, who is also the president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, reminded Kentucky smokers that it’s never too late to quit and noted that while it often takes several attempts to be successful, there are many resources available to help.

“Medications and counseling are available, free of charge to most, to help you through the roughest times,” he said.

For example, Kentucky law requires health insurance companies, Medicaid, and its managed-care organizations to cover the cost of smoking-cessation treatments and counseling without imposing any barriers.

The state also offers the Kentucky Quitline program called Quit Now Kentucky, which can be found at www.quitnowkentucky.org or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). This program offers three different programs, a phone only program, an online program and a combined phone and online program. This program and nicotine replacement therapies are available to many free of cost.

Many employers, health organizations and local health departments offer free or low-cost smoking cessation programs. The American Lung Association also offers Freedom from Smoking clinics in several Kentucky locations.

Kentucky Health News

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